NOT AN EXIT
is always an entrance is always an entrance is always an entrance
Hi! This is my little project as of now. If you know some of my other work, you already know it's gonna be weird. You'd also already know that I don't usually make stories, since I tend to prefer the worldbuilding and think of the story as secondary. You'll find that this story is full of dialogue and worldbuilding exposition, which it considers more important than what is going on (because to me, it is). Of course, since this medium is mainly intended for events rather than world state, I try to balance both.
At the last few pages you'll find a challenge: A text written in English, Spanish and the language the people in this book speak, this will be your rosetta stone. There are also maps and little details, as well as "author commentary" on some worldbuilding bits. This is just for the most worldbuilding-inclined people, as well as language nerds up to a challenge.
The content warnings for this work are: Philosophical discussions of what reality is, philosophical discussions of what a person is, manipulation of a being's consciousness, manufactured consciousness for entertainment purposes, discussion of suicide, capitalism, climate change, gross/"meaty" horror.
If that doesn't break the deal, I hope you enjoy this!
NOT AN EXIT
is never an exit is never an exit is never an exit is never an exit
"You have been woken up for the first time. Information about you and your place in the world has been now appended to your memory banks. We understand that this is an overwhelming process, so allow us to bring your attention to key points for a functional member of a society."
Everything was dark, a voice sounded in my head. I couldn't help but scream for a while, until I opened my eyes. I didn't actually open my eyes, though, it just felt like I did. I saw a long hall made of bright walls, which extended beyond what I could see. The voice spoke again.
"Feel free to ask any questions before you are untethered from this space."
"Every person that is born must be introduced to the world before they are tethered to it. This is done by providing them a period of hallucination in which they can obtain information about it."
"How can I do that?"
"By asking questions."
I tried to walk through the hall, but as I tried to take a step, my legs went limp and I fell on the floor. I found myself unable to get up again, so I turned around instead, to face the ceiling.
"Who are you?"
"I am your tether, I connect you to the worlds, and I am a part of your body. Currently, as you are being born, I am providing you with any information you may want before your existence begins."
"Who am I?"
"Your name has not been decided. Input from your parents is being awaited."
"Your parents are the people who created you. A person is created when more than one people's tethers carry their respective person's genetic information to a third, separate creature called—"
I tried to look around, but there wasn't much to see. The walls were bland, seemingly only designed to emit light.
"So what am I?"
"You are a person. A group of creatures coexisting towards collective preservation."
"So I'm many creatures?"
"Yes. A person mostly consists of a tether, a husk and a gut. The husk also makes symbiosis of other creatures, called tendrils."
I looked at my body. I could see some bits hanging out of my arms. I assumed these were my tendrils. I moved my hands in front of my face to look at how the fingers moved around, feeling my control over them.
"Where's my husk?"
"It's your outermost layer. It's a soft layer that covers your gut, which is the part of you that moves and perceives."
"Wait, if you're a separate creature, where are you? What part of me are you?"
Upon asking, a small creature flew from my forehead in front of my eyes, it was a small insect with a green glow.
"This is what a tether looks like. It communicates with your gut the same way other parts would."
I continued looking at my hands for a few seconds. "Can I wake up now?"
My tether returned to my forehead, before fading the hall to darkness, then I woke up on the floor, in a room lit only by a window. The light outside was bright, and I crawled toward it to see where it came from. There was a round, large shape on the other side. "What is that?"
The voice in my head responded. "You are observing our smallest natural moon." A few lines appeared in my vision, connecting the moon to a few symbols. "I can't read those," I said, before feeling a strange sense of emptiness that slowly filled up to the point that it wasn't there. I then realized I was able to understand the text. I wondered what had just happened, and if it was the tether which caused it. It seemed like it has a lot of control over everything.
The moon was called Sahia, it was currently being used as a place to store cargo. There were lights on the dark side.
I got up and looked around, confused. I realized I was alone in my room, even though my tether had said something about parents. I assumed this meant I would have no name for a while, but I didn't think about the implications of this. I walked around in the room and found a reflective surface. A mirror. I stared at my own face and body, analyzing it.
I looked at the gut. I could see the husk and the tether resting on it. The tendrils were shining a light blue, though not brightly enough to make things any easier to see. I moved my arms and tilted my head side to side to see what I look like when I'm moving. It was an interesting shape to have. I held the neck of my husk with my hands and tried to take it off, but it hung tight to my neck. I managed to pull it away for a few seconds and saw several circles of teeth on the inner side. "This thing is biting me all the time? That's horrifying…"
But it was my body. I tried to not think too much of it, the scary bits were probably normal and I just had to get used to them. I stared at the light on my forehead. If it can make me see a reality that doesn't exist, I wondered whether the reality I'm seeing right now is actually real or not. My head kinda hurt from thinking too hard about it, so I tried to focus on something else.
Where was I anyways? Is this room important to me in some way? Maybe I can ask my tether about it, since it seems to know things that I don't. For that matter, I also wondered how it was possible for a part of me to know things that I don't. I was starting to ask too many questions, and realized that asking a big question is the same as asking a lot of small ones. They both give you a headache the same way, at least.
"Uh, tether? Where am I?" I asked out loud, trying to get an answer from the voice in my head.
"You're in Resting Room A53-720"
"What does that mean?"
I felt myself forcibly remembering the answer to the question, as if I had always known it and something had brought it back.
"Was that you?"
"I don't understand."
"I feel like I just… remembered what your words meant, was that you?"
"Yes. When information from your memory banks or from an external source is pulled into your conscious processes, it has been recalled."
I nodded and continued looking around. I recalled that the opening on the wall was the exit from this place, and that it would lead to a corridor with entrances similar to this one, full of rooms where people can rest. That is how resting rooms work. It was becoming easier to feel comfortable being alive now that I knew I had access to the answers of my questions. I tried to interact with the door, but a hole opened when my hand got near its surface. I walked through it, and as expected, I was now surrounded by two long walls full of entrances like this one. Upon asking "Tether, where's the exit?" a map of the place appeared in the corner of my eye, it had a guide pointing me downstairs.
As I walked toward the stairs, I wondered if it would look weird that I talk alone when I speak to my tether, so I decided to ask right now that there was nobody who could hear.
"Physically, you aren't emitting sound when speaking to me," it clarified, "I'm just allowing you to perceive things that way to maximize comfort. In reality, no one else can hear or see what you say to me."
I made my way downstairs. I was in a larger room, with various places to sit, and a main entrance. This one was transparent, letting me get a glimpse of the outside. There were other people, with different colors everywhere - different tethers, different tendrils, different husks, different guts. They were all on a line towards another person, which was behind a counter. I wondered for a second whether I should join the line. "Tether, what's the line for?"
"These people have opted out of a tethernet public profile, so they must wait until their physical cards are returned before they can leave."
"Do I have to join?"
Hearing the response, I got out of the place, looking at the people and what they were doing as I walked to the door. Outside there were bright lights of every color, on towers that extended towards the sky. "Now leaving Resting Block A53," my tether announced. Above ground there were things moving at high speeds, which I recalled to be vehicles that carry people to distant destinations. I looked to my sides, there were a lot of signs for different places. I wondered where to go from here.
"Tether, where should I go now?"
"Your ability to go places will depend on your current social and economical status."
I decided to just walk for now and see if I found any interesting places to be in. The outside was big and open, but somehow, everything was still enclosed within long halls and walls. The walls were just made of buildings now. I saw other people walking by, minding their own business, and I wondered where they were going. What did they have to do? Maybe I also have something I should be doing. I kept thinking about that. I also kept thinking about what I was doing in that room.
"Hey, tether? Where are people who are born usually, like… Where do they wake up for the first time?"
"After the period of accelerated development, a newborn Husk is given to a gut. People choose which tendrils to—"
"Can you please cut to the important bit?"
"One wakes up at a reproductive factory once their parents come back for them eleven months after their conception."
Reproductive factory. I recalled the meaning of these words. The definition didn't match the one I had for the resting rooms, so something was clearly off here. "Do you know who my parents are? And where they are?"
For once, my tether did not respond. It seems like it didn't have all the answers. I looked around once more, the world seemed more confusing than a few moments ago. Then, it announced: "An extensive search through the tethernet could not yield results."
"Every tether is connected to each other in what is called the tethernet, sharing information with each other. One of the main uses of the tethernet is checking people's Public Profiles."
"Do I have one?"
A screen with text appeared before my eyes. It was a list of several fields like name, unique identifier, location, workforce and extra fields I could add if I wished to. Only unique identifier, location and workforce were filled. I recalled that I could see anyone's public profile, even when they weren't around me.
I looked up, trying to find the moon again, but it wasn't there. I assumed it was covered by one of the buildings. I walked faster, trying to find a spot where it would be behind a shorter building, but I walked into someone. They seemed busy, carrying what I recalled to be a physical notebook, in which they were writing.
"Watch it, asshole!" they yelled.
"I'm sorry, I wasn't looking, I…"
"Yeah, yeah, no shit."
It was the first time I had talked to another person, which was pretty sad to think about. I continued on my way, asking my tether to remove my profile and the maps from my sight. I tried to pay more attention to my surroundings this time, but kept trying to find a spot where I could see the moon. It was the first thing I ever saw that was part of the external world and its light was… soothing, somewhat. I heard footsteps running toward me from behind.
"You have no name," they said. It was the same person from before, named Korai, according to my tether. They were a news writer.
"Do you know how important that is?"
"Awesome, follow me." They dragged me by the arm. I tried to resist, but was too confused to actually manage to do anything. They got me into the same building as before, as my tether announced: "Now entering resting block A53." They waved their hand at the person behind the counter, and went upstairs to a room. Once in it, they turned on a light. I looked out the window, and found the moon again.
I took a deep breath. They then introduced themselves.
"Sorry for snatching you out of the street like that. I'm researching a case about people like you," they seemed nervous, moving their hands a lot as they spoke, "It's my first time interviewing someone. It's a big deal."
I just nodded. I didn't understand what was going on, and every word they said flooded my brain with so much information that I felt as if I was understanding less every time. They seemed excited, though.
"Sorry, are you sure you've got the right person?" I asked.
"Yes, completely. Wow, just a few hours old too. The superiors are gonna reward me big for this."
They got a small device out of their pocket, which my tether identified as an audio recorder, then they began explaining. "I'm going to ask you some questions, feel free to give as much or as little information as you want"
"What will you do with… all this?"
"I'll write an article about you and post it on the tethernet." I nodded, not really knowing what that meant, but too overwhelmed to ask my tether. "Sorry, is this too much? I'm… ugh, one second."
They grabbed one of the tendrils that was hanging from their side and pulled it away until it came out. It began shaking, probably trying to find another husk to hang from. The process looked slightly painful.
"What was that?"
"It's a tendril… do you know what these do?" Their voice was quieter now, like I was talking to someone else.
"I know they exist…"
"They're what gives you, like, personality and mind. Without them you can't really do anything, you'd be kind of dead."
"It's scary, yeah."
"So what did that one… do?"
"Boss said I'm 'way too quiet' and 'I speak like some sort of scientist,' so I got me this thing for when I'm working."
I nodded. They seemed more calm now that they didn't have that, so I guess whatever they did worked.
"So… before we begin, do you need anything? Water, food?"
"No, I'm fine…"
"Alrighty. I'm recording now."
It was kind of nervous. I didn't fully understand what was happening, and the idea that you could just change someone by plugging and unplugging tendrils into them was… scary. It also made me think about whether anyone has ever seen someone without a husk — some people probably had.
"So," they began talking, "today I'm interviewing someone who has been awoken by the error. They were awoken a few minutes ago, too, so that's pretty cool." They pushed a button and took a deep sigh, before pushing it again.
"First, do you have a name that you prefer?"
"Not really. I haven't thought about that too much."
They nodded, then asked the next question: "Where did you wake up and at what time?"
Trying to make it look like I was thinking or struggling to remember, I asked my tether: "Uh, tether, at what time did I wake up?"
"Three hours into the round, today," it answered.
"Three hours into the round today, in a resting block."
"That's interesting. Did you ask that to your tether?"
I remained silent for a moment, staring at them in confusion as to how they noticed that. "Yeah, how did you know that?"
"It was the awkward pause. Regardless, have you met anyone else who was awoken under similar circumstances?"
"You're the only one I know, so, were you?"
"No. Excellent. Do you know your parents? Or how many do you have?"
"No. I asked my tether if it knew, but it didn't either."
"That's interesting. Was there anything in particular you noticed when you woke up?"
"I saw the moon. It's pretty. Uh, Sahia is. Tether kind of implied there were others." I looked at the window again.
They tilted their head, "Pretty? The moon?"
"Yeah. Have you seen it?"
"I mean, most of us have. Many times, too. What did you see in it?"
"I think it was its glow. It was soothing."
"Interesting. I'll have to look into this. Do you mind me keeping your UID, er, universal identifier, in my directory?"
"Uh. I don't think I would if I knew what that is."
"I guess I can introduce it as a list of people you want to talk to later."
"You want to do that?"
"Sure. You don't know anyone else, you could use the help."
They stretched their back, "I'll talk to you later, after I write a basic draft from this. Then I can rest for a few days before the deadline." I recalled what a deadline was, and about the different ways that workforces split the time of people. I watched as they walked out the room, wondering about what had just happened. I should've accepted when they offered food. I wondered how long it would take for them to come back.
I lied down on the floor, looking at the ceiling, then at the window. From where I was, I could see some more buildings, and vehicles floating between them. I wondered if my tether was able to give me the names of everyone there, so I asked it to show me their public profiles. It displayed small rectangles with everyone's information, connected to specific people with a line. They blinked in and out really fast. Some people had custom fields like "Going To" or "Mood" or "Favorite Food." Some people customized their profiles to have images or decoration here and there. One of them was Korai. I wondered where they were going. Did they have a place to stay that wasn't a block? Maybe with their parents? Parents must be the first people you ever know. I wondered where you meet others.
I looked down at my tendrils. They were controlling everything about me, giving me thoughts and feelings. It was scary to think about what would happen if I accidentally pulled out the one that does that. I didn't know if the person who would be there after a tendril is pulled would be me or not. Korai changed, but it still felt like the same person. I wondered if there are people that aren't ever given a husk or tendrils. I couldn't help but feel bad for such a person, but at the same time, they didn't really feel or perceive anything, there was no one there, for all that mattered. What if that happened to me? I should have learnt by now that thinking too much about things is just a headache waiting to happen.
The room was quiet. I waved at the lights to turn them off and let the only light be the one that came through the window. I took a deep breath and asked my tether to stop showing me profiles. Things up there looked so loud and busy. Everyone seemed loud and busy. The floor of this room was comfortable and peaceful, and Sahia's light was soothing.
I was woken up by a voice. Korai's voice. A blinding light came from outside, it was bright enough to light up the entire room, and it was hot to the touch. I couldn't even look at the sky.
"Hey, hey, are you there?" they asked. I tried to look around for them.
"What's happening? Where are you?"
"You should know by now that when you hear a voice in your head, it's your tether. Hey, have you seen anyone around lately? Some creepy weirdo maybe?"
"Like, other than you? Not really. Wait, no, you're not a creepy… ugh."
"Yeah, other than me, duh. Look, some rando messaged me last night and, like, they want me to stop talking to ya. Ugh, fuck this. One second." I heard them taking off a tendril again. "I hate these things."
"Why do you use them?"
"I don't know. I don't want to be boring, I suppose."
"I don't think you're boring."
"I appreciate it, but that also means nothing from someone who knows only one person. Regardless, it doesn't matter. There is someone watching both of us, but I can't talk to you about all that like this. Meet me here."
I recalled a place and asked my tether where it was. It pointed me some directions far away from here. They stopped talking. I didn't know what to think, things had become really weird really fast. I stared at the light that came from the window for a while. I hoped things weren't always like this, surely it's a one-time thing that doesn't happen to everyone. Even though, in a way, I knew it isn't a thing that happens to everyone, the problem was that I'm not like everyone, there was something going on with me and someone had to figure it out.
I didn't like being involved in this. I also didn't want to leave Korai alone. It didn't take much thought to realize that at least one of these two had an easy, achievable solution, so I got up. The energy I had yesterday wasn't there anymore, but I dragged myself outside and through the streets. I was hungry and something smelled like food all the way through. There were people everywhere, all of them doing different things and going places, both by foot and flying overhead. I arrived at a wide, but not too tall, building. "Entering station Sczaikyu-3."
The first thing I noticed was how some people were sitting down on the floor, on a corner; they didn't look well. People passed them by. They seemed to be having a conversation, despite not visibly moving their mouths. One noticed I was staring at them, so I quickly looked away. There was a place that smelled of food, I couldn't tell what it was, I just knew there was something edible in it. I got closer, there was a person behind a counter, with a husk full of tendrils. Their smile was intense and slightly unnatural, like they were exhausted under all the things added on top of themselves.
"I'm sorry, is there food here?" I asked, sniffing the air as I spoke.
"...Yes? Every station has a food source for hungry travelers. You must be from far away." Their voice was high pitched and they sounded eerily excited. It was creepy hearing them talk. "Here's everything we have!"
A list of foods appeared before my eyes, each of them with a price. I asked my tether to sort by price in ascending order.
"I can't afford any of this…"
"Well, that's too bad!" they said in a slightly condescending manner, "come back here when you're doing better!"
The list disappeared from my sight. I kept walking around the place, watching as the people came and went. My tether pointed me to some stairs that led underground, so once I was done looking around, I went down. "Now leaving Sczaikyu."
Below, there were tunnels that appeared to lead outside this place, with people waiting in them. My tether pointed me to it, so I joined in a spot between two people. "Departing in two minutes."
The person next in line decided to talk to me. I wondered if they noticed something awkward in me or if they just wanted to be friendly.
"Nice weather today, ey?"
"Uh, yeah, it's nice. Lots of, uh, sun, yeah."
They stared at me for a while, I couldn't tell if their look was confused or judgemental. "Somethin' wrong?"
"Uh, not really, no. I'm just a bit lost, is all."
"Aha… not from here, ey?"
"Yeah. I come from, uh… far. I was actually surprised to see food up there, that was nice. Wish I had known so I could have some."
"Huh. That's how yer city treats y'all nowadays? Sounds like bad stuff. I can see why ya'd move out."
"Yeah, real bad stuff…"
"When I came 'ere for the first time I was a bit lost too, but my reasons ain't no'uhn like yours."
My tether announced again, "Departing in twenty seconds."
"Aight, nice meetin' ya, hope to see ya 'nother time. Keep up the good work."
"Thanks. You too."
I stood there with anticipation and fear, not really sure about what was going to happen in a few seconds. I looked around, maybe there was still time to bail out. I was looking at the stairs, considering jumping off the tunnel, when everything went dark. I was in a wet place with soft walls that completely covered my body. My tether showed me a map of the place, we were outside the city, moving really fast towards another one.
I didn't like this. I didn't want to be here. I should have stayed at home and let Korai alone. It was so dark and sticky everywhere. I couldn't stop shaking and panicking all the way through. I looked at my tendrils, one of them was giving me consciousness; I realized that I could pull it away. I didn't want to do that, but I also didn't want to be here. I wished there was a way that this would be over quickly. I tried to push the walls away from me, but whatever they were kept pushing back into me. I couldn't keep track of how long it lasted, it felt like I spent ages in there, just staring at the blackness, trying to distract myself by looking at the map, seeing how long it took to get from one place to the other. I kept my hand on one of my tendrils.
Eventually, I felt a sudden force; we were not moving anymore. The walls that kept me in here began pushing me forwards. I tried to push back against them, but they were too strong. What was happening? The walls kept pushing me forwards, I could see the feet of the person in front of me, there was light. I was now in a gooey pile of people, I looked around to see where I was in, and saw a long creature partially going into the other side of the tunnel. Was I just eaten by that?
I promised myself I would never get back in one of those things. People started getting up and forming a line in front of a room with transparent walls. They were sprayed with water, washing off the goo, and then they walked through a room with fans everywhere, which dried them off. I was at the tail end of the line, which went surprisingly fast, I was basically walking all the way through.
The water was warm. I wanted to wait until it had fully washed everything off, I didn't want any reminder of what just happened to remain on my body. Then I walked through the fans, in which I didn't stay for as long as I did in the water; I didn't mind being wet. I came out practically dry.
I walked upstairs. "Now entering Gýazćztamnia." I couldn't stop thinking about what happened. Why do people do that? Does nobody else think that it's gross? Do they just use tendrils to not think about it? It's such a horrible means of travel.
Korai was not far from this station. I just walked directly to them, trying to ignore the smell of food. I got to where my tether pointed me.
I heard them, not in my head, but through my ears. "Thought you weren't gonna come."
"It was horrible. Why do people travel like that? I hated all of it. I couldn't even get food! Why did you make me come all the way here? Where even are you?!"
They were floating above me, standing on a flat, thin board. I wasn't able to tell what it was. Their hands were full.
"Here, take this." They threw another board like theirs to the ground. "Just stand on it, it works through tethernet, so it should just do whatever you want it to. Feed it twice a day."
"This thing eats? How?"
"It absorbs nutrients through its skin. It's trying to dissolve me right now, it just can't. It's not designed to eat people."
"That's… creepy. Why is everything so creepy?"
"You get used to it. Or… desensitized. Or you get a tendril that disables your disgust. Either works."
I stepped onto the board. It immediately lifted me up towards them; it was so sudden that I almost fell.
"Careful there. Thing's responsive as hell."
"Yeah, I noticed."
"So… I take it you came here via worm?"
"Don't remind me. I'm still trying to forget."
They chuckled, then handed me a box. "Here, take this."
The box smelled delicious — there was certainly food inside. I opened it, and found… something. I couldn't tell what it was, but it smelled edible. It was black and almost the size of my head, with strange orange leaves near it. It had a gooey, meaty magenta filling.
"I was starving, thank you. I didn't have enough money to get anything at the station and then—"
"It's fine. Just eat it. I can kind of guess what happened."
While I ate, we both rose up above the buildings. I looked around, holding the box with both of my hands. There were lights everywhere, and the neverending stream of vehicles was now just above us, I could have just gone toward it and join them if I was good at moving around in this thing.
"So what is it?" I asked, with my mouth half-full.
"Oh, right, it's someone's head I found lying around—"
I spat my mouthful. "This is what?!"
They began laughing. "Whoa, I'm kidding, did you really believe—"
"YES," I yelled. "YES I DID."
"Oh. I'm sorry."
We kept staring at the city and at the people flying above us. None seemed to care that we were just floating here doing nothing.
"I guess things are pretty grim sometimes, huh," they excused themselves. "I won't joke like that again, sorry."
"It's fine. Just don't do it while I'm hungry. Or after the… ugh."
They nodded. "It's lullbug, by the way. The food."
"I don't know what that is."
"Hard to find large bug that lives outside inhabitable areas. People have killed for these things. Deathshows offer them as a prize. When uncooked they can put your husk to sleep."
"Sounds expensive. And dangerous."
"They're pretty expensive, but I catch them myself. Don't tell anyone that, it's not allowed."
"I'm at journalism, not outer-area gathering. Though that would be more fun, if it didn't take most of your life."
"Is that why you chose journalism? Because of the free time?"
"Chose? No one chooses who they are in this world. I was assigned this after I woke up. Pretty lucky, since I get to finish my work on day one and then slack off before the deadline."
"I don't know, this whole tendril thing. It seems like everyone chooses who they are."
I was done eating, so we started moving aimlessly.
"I guess that's kinda true. But in a way, even with all that, we all just use them to be better at fulfilling our places."
"Well, part of what I have to do is interviewing people, I have to be interesting, so I'm trying to get used to that one tendril. I also have to write articles and all the whole shtick."
"I remember someone at the station. Their husk was full of tendrils, do you think they were all because—"
"They probably don't like their workforce. What else can they do?"
There was a moment in which nothing happened, besides us watching the world around us move. "Speaking of tendrils," they grabbed something from under their husk, "here's one for you. It'll give you a name and UID and stuff. We can't let people see you have no name. It's why I wanted you to come here, I happen to know someone who makes these."
"Won't any of those people notice?" I asked, looking at the people above us.
"Nah. They're too busy to care about a pair of weirdos who hang out in shady places."
I put the new tendril on my husk, I felt it dig into it, securing itself. My name was now Twekya.
"It hurts less than I'd imagined."
"They inhibit any unpleasant sensation you might feel from them being on you to make sure you don't try to remove them. They feed off you. It's also why it hurts to remove them."
They handed me another tendril. "This one's to encrypt our tethernet conversations, just a safety measure, makes sure no one knows who we are or what we're saying. Unless they see us talk."
"I don't really feel a difference," I said once I put it on me.
"Well, yeah, nothing about you has changed. Even if it had, your perception of yourself would change too, so it wouldn't feel strange to you either."
I nodded. The sun was setting, I could see it from here. It was less awful to look at now that it was mostly dark. The people flying overhead suddenly turned their lights on, in almost perfect synchrony.
"Doesn't it terrify you how everything works?" I asked.
"Yeah. A lot, actually. You can't imagine."
"Do you think anyone else feels the same?"
"Nah. The feeling's probably buried under tendrils. But at least I know you do."
"But, is a feeling that's caused by a tendril, real?"
"I don't know. Is a mind that's created by a tendril, real? This all could be a well-crafted tendril hallucination."
"Right. Hadn't thought about that… so nothing is real?"
"I feel pretty real myself."
"Yeah, but of course you'd say that. For all I know you might not be real!"
"That idea's depressing."
"I guess everything is depressing."
"Yeah, there's a reason why a third of the people agree with it."
"What do the other two thirds think?"
"One thinks that everything we perceive is real, regardless of what causes that perception. The other thinks only some things are, and we must be careful to navigate what is and isn't."
"I think I'm in the last one."
They nodded. They seemed happy to just be there, answering questions. I preferred to ask things to them instead of my tether, even though I worried I would eventually become annoying.
The sun finally set. I looked around for Sahia and, once I saw it among the other moons, I stared at it, slowing down my board to a stop. Korai stopped a few seconds later and came back towards me.
"I was looking into this when that weirdo contacted me."
"Your interest in it. Apparently everyone else who woke up under your condition had an interest in pointless things like plants or our astral bodies. It was apparently not curable by any means, only temporarily suppressable."
"I don't think they're pointless. To be fair, it was the first thing I ever saw."
"That's true. I wonder if that's the case for all of the others."
They sat down on their board. I was too afraid of mine to do the same, so I just lowered myself. They were staring at the moon too, tilting their head from side to side and squinting their eyes.
"I think I can kind of see it."
"I don't know. I don't usually just stare at it. It has never crossed my mind. Why would I do it, right?"
"I guess that makes sense."
There were a few minutes where we didn't do anything, we just looked at the moon as people flew by. It looked so much better from here, out in the open, even with the sound of everyone flying close to us. I wanted to reach it, but I recalled that in reality it's so far away I wouldn't be able to reach it, and I'd run out of air before I do it anyways. It was sad to realize, and I wondered what it looked like on the surface.
"So, about that person," they began explaining, "they seem to be part of some investigation that has been onto this case, uh, the one about people waking up in random places, since it first showed up."
"Woah, how long ago is that?"
"Apparently, about a hundred years ago. They have made some research public, and it seems they haven't figured anything out? Which I struggle to believe. They are literally made to find out these things."
"Maybe whoever's behind this is just… better?"
"What kind of person or… people, would be able to do this? And why would anyone do it? The only people who have a say in the manufacturing of people are the superiors."
"Maybe the person who did it is a superior? Or close to them."
"Hmm, that is possible, but why?" they began moving, I followed them. "We're also assuming there's a who, it could just as easily be a casualty, like some random mutation or malformed OMC."
"OMC stands for Organic Machine Code, it's a series of orders encoded in a set of proteins that are transmitted to a being through a special fluid. Beings capable of receiving OMC will enact the orders. Husks and Metroworms are an example of this."
"Asked your tether what something was, huh? You can just ask me, you know?"
"Sorry, I was worried I'd become annoying."
"Nah, I kinda like it. Anyways, it could be anything."
"So what will you do?"
"I'll smuggle you into society. I've already given you a name and an UID, you're basically all set! I just want to make sure you're prepared for it. Just don't tell anyone who you—"
"I thought you were gonna look into all this."
"Oh, wow, hell no. That would be dangerous, there's a reason all the research is private, and I don't want to die that much—" they stopped for a second, as if interrupted. "One second. It's them."
"Can I know what they're saying?"
I could hear two voices in my head. One was Korai's, the other one was unknown.
"I can see you," said the stranger.
"Yeah? Tell me where I am."
"You're floating around in Gýazćz with the undesired. Hand it over or I will retrieve it by force."
"Where the fuck are you?"
Korai asked me to opt out of the 'location service,' which I asked my tether to do. It displayed a list of services that I would lose access to after proceeding, and I told it to do it regardless.
They looked around to find anyone who looked suspicious; there was no one in plain sight. I looked at nearby buildings, but no one seemed to be looking at us. We went near the closest stream of traffic, eventually joining it. I didn't know where we were going, or what Korai was trying to do.
"Did you see them?"
"Shut up," they said in my mind, "talk to me through tethernet. We don't know if they're listening."
"Noted," I responded in the same way.
"And yes, I found them, I'm trying to get lost in the traffic."
We accelerated until we moved about as fast as everyone else around us. The speed reminded me of having travelled via worm — I didn't want to remember that. I didn't like what was happening. I didn't want to move this fast ever again.
Korai looked to their right for a split second and began accelerating past most people. It had looked like all the points of light that were moving forward slowed down, and began going in the other direction.
"I just saw them."
"Who is it?"
An image of a tall person with hair on their chin appeared in my mind. Their husk was blue, with six red tendrils and a tether covered by their hair. They were on some black vehicle with a seat and lights on the front.
"How do you know it's them?"
"They've been taking weird turns in our direction, and they're right behind us."
"How fast can this thing go?"
"Fast enough." They sped up. I was too scared to think clearly, but Korai seemed confident in what they were doing. I didn't know what to do besides accepting their decisions while the stranger was catching up behind us.
"Where are we going?" I asked.
"Look ahead, we're gonna lose them there."
We were headed towards an intersection, a crossing of many ways in which people usually travel in their commute. This one had six ways, and it had other streams of traffic stacked under it, with people moving back and forth between them. The plan, as Korai explained it, was to let ourselves fall into another stream, to go in its direction and confuse the stranger. I was too scared and lost to protest against it as much as I would have wanted to, and even if I could have, it didn't seem like we ad a choice
We entered the intersection, it was disorienting to look at. Everyone was going in so many different directions, it would have been surprising to think that none of them were colliding into each other, if we hadn't been trying to outrun someone.
It suddenly looked like all the points in my vision had accelerated past me again. More importantly, we were now falling down among a lot of people moving very fast. Korai managed to still look confident, like it wasn't their first time falling from great height. My board stuck to my feet, even with the sudden stop. Korai pulled my arm once more, in another direction.
We were now headed somewhere else, moving in a different direction.
"Did we lose them?"
"I don't know, I couldn't see."
"Okay, let's just go as far as I can. You tell me if they're around."
"I don't see them."
"Did you opt out of the thing?"
"I still don't know what it was, but I think I did."
We kept flying for long enough for me to calm down and think about what had just happened. Eventually, we found a crowd of people in one of the streets, which my tether said was a gathering of people looking to buy some new product. I cut it off before it could tell me what the product was. We descended into it, trying to blend in with them.
"That was terrifying. How were you so calm?" I asked, still through tethernet.
"I've had to run from supervisors and the like before, kind of. Usually not for anything serious. I think I'm on a list after this one, though."
"Why do this just for someone you picked up from the street a day ago?"
They stood in silence for a moment, staring at me awkwardly, then down at themselves, to finally respond. "It doesn't matter."
It seemed to me that I had struck something they wished to not talk about. I kept silent, waiting for them to change the topic.
Instead, they just kept staring downwards while they walked through the crowd until we reached the center. I felt bad for having asked, even though I knew it was a fair question to ask.
"You're not a person."
"What do you mean?"
"Everyone. They don't see you as a person."
"Oh… that's… but why?"
"Because no one made you as one. For all anyone knows, you weren't brought into the world for any reason, so you're not here to be a person."
"What do you mean? Are you okay?"
"Like, there are some who aren't meant to be people people. They're meant to be entertainment or, research subjects. Not everyone is given tendrils, and some are given ones that make them a character for a show, or even things like part of the furniture."
"For all anyone knows, you're probably that. I don't want you to be that. I don't want to see you drinking acid on some stupid show, or to know that they'll open you to examine your organs, or something."
"Why don't they just assume I'm a person?"
"I don't know. To avoid having an unnecessary surplus of people, I guess."
"Is… all this… why you're doing this?"
"No! I mean, yes, but no. I just. Sorry. Let's just forget I said anything."
"I don't think I can do that…"
We stared at each other for a while, in awkward silence. It seemed whatever the person leading the crowd was talking about, was something they were passionate about. I thought it might be better to get to a quieter place. I tried to ask my tether for quiet places, but it didn't yield any useful results.
"What do we do now?" I asked.
"I don't know. I'm sure they're looking for us. We should probably leave this city and go somewhere far."
"I don't know. We'll probably end up having to move around a lot."
I asked my tether to show me a map of everywhere, trying to get an idea of how big the world is. It showed me where I am, in a city, and then it zoomed out into a wasteland containing other cities. The wasteland was labeled as inhospitable zone, and the cities were labeled with their names. There was a huge zone of gray liquid, called the Ashen Sea.
"Oh, I guess we could go hunting for a bit. Just while we think of where to go. Then we could fly to some other city. What do you say?" they suggested.
"Yeah. Perhaps a bit too fun."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know. We're basically fugitives now, or something—"
"We don't know if they're looking for you yet!"
"They are. I know that. It's a mess, just…"
They sighed, then grabbed a tendril from under their husk and put it on themselves. "Let's just go, alright? We'll think of something later."
I nodded, and we walked out of the crowd. I followed Korai to a building next to a glass wall with giant fans on it. The glass wall seemed to extend along the entirety of the horizon. It seemed to curve and disappear into the sky as well.
"Where are we?"
"This is the exit, the only way to go in and out of cities without going into another city."
We walked inside. It was mostly empty rectangular place, and we could hear how our steps echoing every time we walked. There were stairs that went underground, similar to the metro station. I shivered thinking about it. Korai noticed.
"Don't worry. This isn't a metro. They just reused the models."
I sighed, relieved. We went downstairs, and found another person. They were slightly taller than me, had a light blue husk and their tendrils were pink. Their hair hid their tether. They were wearing a thick suit and transparent eyewear. They waved their hand in our direction.
"Yo?! I kinda can't believe there's someone else here! A pair of journalists, huh? And one of them was born yesterday, that's always fun." They greeted us. I didn't know how to feel about their comment about me.
"Yeah," Korai responded, "there's weird things happening pretty far from here and we were asked to go there and see what's up. Write about it, all that stuff. We weren't given details."
"Woah, that sounds dangerous, but awesome!"
"Yeah, pretty cool. What are you gonna go get?"
"Kind of a weird task, there's these crystals that grow under the ground, I was commanded to go get some of them."
An image of some yellow crystals appeared in my head, presumably Korai's too. The crystals were glowing in an otherwise completely dark location.
"Oh shit, they make tethers with those. Why don't they automate the mining? Sending people there sounds wasteful."
"I know right?!" they seemed excited, like they'd had the same thought in their head for a while and finally got it out. "It's absurd!"
"Yeah, I mean, at least our thing is necessary, right?" they nodded at me, as if expecting me to follow the conversation.
I was nervous, and aware that I had failed to pretend that I wasn't. "Uh, yeah. I can't imagine how you could automate that, hah."
Kîwzech, the stranger, chuckled. "Take it easy, dude. First day's always awkward, you get the hang of it quickly. We're made for this stuff!"
"Yeah, I'm sure they'll get better about it," Korai intervened, seeing how anxious I was.
"Anyways, gotta go dig out those things. Keep up the… wait, you guys don't have like, safety suits or anything?"
"Not really. We were told we should be safe where we're going."
"Huh, really? That must be some experimental weather prediction technology. Weather out there's… quite something…"
"Huh, I suppose it is. Never been out there."
"Anyways. You two stay cohesive, aye?"
"You too, be careful out there."
We waved goodbye and walked out through a dark tunnel surrounded by fans blowing warm air in our direction, which lead us to a wall at the end. The wall was curved inwards, and there was some sort of input method on it.
Kîwzech interacted with the inputs, and a door closed behind us, leaving us in a small, cylindrical room. A cool white gas began being pumped into the room; it wasn't hurtful to inhale, in fact, it felt somewhat relaxing to do so. Once the room was full, it felt as if it were rotating for a few seconds. Once it stopped, the gas was pumped outside and the door was opened again, now leading to the outside.
The outside was a giant desert, in which the air was rough to inhale and had a strong smell, which my tether said was that of a thing called chlorine. It was very dark, but the stars and the moons illuminated the place. There was a strong fog on the distance, which emitted green lights from time to time.
"Ah shit, I gotta go through a storm again," they said, somewhat frustrated while looking at the lights. "Alright then, keep up the good work, guys."
They began running towards the storm. Korai and I stood there, waiting for them to go far enough for them to not hear us talk. We began walking in a different direction to theirs, while I looked at the sky. Our tendrils illuminated the space around it with faint neon colors.
"Dude, I've never been here at night. This is cool, but creepy," said Korai, looking around them, paying particular attention to the storm. I
"Is it? Why?"
"I don't know. I'm not used to it being dark, and seeing the moons. But it's quite… pretty, maybe. I think I can definitely see what you see in the moon. Except now it's not just that moon."
"You can? That's nice!"
They sighed, still staring at the moon, and stopped walking. Their tether was blinking, and they looked like they were thinking about something.
"Would you be okay with living outside Chakzr? Like, the cities? Assuming you could get food and rest, that is."
"Yeah. I didn't really like being there that much."
"There are some nice things, but I think we're both excluded from them."
"You're a nice thing I'm not excluded from."
They chuckled. "Thanks. You too."
In the distance, I saw some tall, spiky stones with bright magenta things moving along them. Korai seemed too mesmerized by the moons to notice. The lights reflected on their eyes, including my symbiotes and hers. I never stopped to notice what eyes looked like; these weak, watery things that allow us to see. I notice how their left eye was different to the right one, slightly less crystalline and reflective, I wondered what it meant.
They noticed I was staring and quickly covered their face with one hand, pushing me away with the other one.
"What were you looking at?!"
"Nothing! Whatever I saw I don't know what it was!"
"Alright…" their movements quieted and they stood up, uncovering their right eye, "just don't tell anyone about it."
We kept wandering around for a bit, until they also noticed the rocky spikes. They started walking toward them, and I followed them.
"Dude, lullbugs? So many of them?"
"Maybe they just come out at night?"
"Could be? I've never seen these many… five… six…" they pointed their finger in their general directions, trying to count them. "Whatever, dude, this is a lot! We could sell these… ah. Right, yeah."
"Whoever we sell these to would gain more from giving us away."
"I still don't know how you know they're looking for us that badly, didn't you say you've ran from situations like this before?"
"I know what I said, it's complicated. This is not the same."
I sighed. I didn't know how it was not the same. Maybe there was a nuance I just didn't understand.
"I'm sorry. I wish I could explain it. You have no idea how similar we are."
"I do, kind of. Everyone else seems so… mechanical, I guess, like the world is programmed to go in a direction, and everything is planned, and I don't like that."
"That's because we are! We are manufactured, we are programmed, and there is nothing in Chakrz that was not planned by someone else!"
We sat on the sand, looking at the bugs as they crawled around aimlessly, happy. Did they feel a sense of purpose? Did they know where they were, and what they were doing? I noticed Korai was staring at them a bit too much, and remembered how they said that they could put one's husk to sleep. I had suspicions that she was thinking of eating them.
"We should leave this place," I said, "let the bugs roam happily."
"Yeah, that might be for the best. Thanks."
I think they knew what I was thinking. I like to think they appreciated it. We stood up, and walked away. I asked my tether how to cook, and recalled a bunch of related information, from the tastes of several ingredients to a variety of ways to start a fire. I noticed I had gotten use to the smell of "chlorine," and noticing this made me feel the rough smell once again. I wished I hadn't.
"There's people I could call, but that'd immediately give away where we are going. Communications pass through other places first, precisely to look for criminals."
"I guess we could go see them in person?"
"Everything is dangerous now, isn't it?"
"We should stick to the things that minimize danger."
I noticed that in the direction we were going, there were a lot more rocky spikes like the ones before. They stopped seeming like a natural construction, and I started feeling like someone had put them here.
"I guess, but I think it could be worth it. Maybe we could pretend to be someone else! Fake our deaths!"
"I don't know anyone who could help us with that. We'd need dead bodies that look like ours to sell the lie."
The structures kept scaring me, I couldn't help but stare at them, like they were guiding us somewhere, or signaling something. I asked Korai what they were.
"What do you mean? This place is pretty empty."
"Empty? We're surrounded by rocks!"
I walked up to one of them. "Do you not see this?!"
"I see you, but that's about it. What are you seeing?"
"The spikes! Like the ones with the bugs!"
"There were rocks there?"
"They were crawling all over them! You even looked up to see them when we were sitting on the sand."
"No? They were on the ground, are you okay?"
"I didn't need more weirdness… let's just keep going."
So we kept walking, I silently guided us in the direction of the spikes. It was impossible that they were not seeing this, they were enormous, and everywhere. I needed to see where they were going. I noticed how Korai somehow managed to avoid one of the spikes that was in their way as we walked.
"How did you avoid that if you can't see them?"
"Nevermind. Can you just, send me an image of what you see around us?"
An image of an empty wasteland appeared in my hand, with nothing but the horizon in sight, and me standing there.
"That's… weird. Look."
I did the same, sending them what I was seeing.
"What is… this is what you see?"
"Yeah, all around us!"
"How long have you seen these?"
"Since the bugs, I guess."
"Interesting… this is creepy…"
We kept walking. I was scared of what would be at the center of the spikes, but at the same time, I was immensely curious. I kept going forwards. Korai began looking around, trying to find the spikes. We both avoided one in different ways, and they still kept looking around. It was unsettling to see them like this, so unaware of their surrounding. It made me wonder what they were thinking about me, after all, they had no reason to trust what I was seeing.
I wondered if maybe I was the one seeing things that weren't there.
"I don't see anything, this just looks like the usual outside…"
I didn't say anything, I just walked forwards until I saw something different. It just seemed like spikes. I walked closer to one of them, and noticed that it had carvings of people faces, deformed into an expression I wasn't able to parse. I showed them to Korai.
"Man, that image creeps the hell out of me… are you sure you are seeing this?"
"I don't know… I don't even know if I'd rather if it was you the one who's failing to see things."
"Hmm. This face, I wonder what it means. Wait, I'll try to imitate it."
They put their hands on their cheeks, opened their mouth and widened their eyes.
"Looks like surprise to me. Kinda. Maybe if I squint my eyes?"
"I just feel like we shouldn't be here, honestly. But even more, I feel like we need to get you medical help somehow."
"I just want to see what's at the center."
We kept going. The spikes all began seeming evenly spread, with the only variation being their orientation. We were in a strange grid of spikes. I sent Korai what I was seeing. They stopped walking for a second, but then continued.
"I'm sorry, but I'm choosing to not indulge you in this, I don't want to make it worse, whatever it is."
I couldn't imagine believing someone's story about seeing something around me that I cannot see. Maybe they were right, but I still felt drawn to this place, needing to explore it. I walked towards where the center appeared to be, until I found a large plaque twice as tall as me. It had inscriptions on the top part in a language that I couldn't understand. On the rest of it there were strange symbols involving drawings of people. I wanted to show it to Korai, but decided against it.
The drawings seemed to depict some symbol killing people, and people running from it. There was a drawing of a person standing in front of a plaque next to some pointy shapes, and under it there was the same threatening symbol concealed by a thick box. Next to it, there was a drawing of the same symbol with its arm having thrust to people chest, and several people lying on the floor. It was a threatening drawing.
There were more plaques like this, but the inscriptions atop were different in each.
"What are you staring at now?"
"Some kind of writing I can't understand."
"Why? You should be automatically getting the writings from tethernet. Maybe they're not actual writings? Or maybe they're not real so your tether can't do much about it."
I groaned. I was annoyed by the way they said that, even though I understood why they would.
I knew the drawing was a warning, I just didn't know what it was about, and curiosity overcame my self-preservation. I kept walking past the plaque, knowing that below me was something with the power to kill people. Eventually, as I walked, I found a small building made of concrete. It seemed to not have any intended entrances, but time had corroded its walls, opening a few holes the size of a person.
I wanted to know what was in it, but for some reason I mostly wanted Korai to believe me, or to see what I was seeing. Maybe on the inside there would be answers to what's going on? I realized that I could probably enter it and take a look around without them noticing that I'm gone, so without much deliberation I walked towards one of the holes and entered it. The big storm on the distance seemed to be getting closer, emitting a low, mechanical humming. Korai simply walked around the building.
The inside was dark, but I was still able to see. There was a trapdoor on the ground, made of some metallic material, with countless broken chains and locks around it. The technology that was used to lock it looked old. There were parts of the wall that looked like they were meant to be used as a table, and what looked like ancient chairs in front of them. The humming kept on going.
"Tether, is there a way to light up this place?"
My tether began flying from my forehead, getting near anything I tred to look at. "That works," I whispered to it. I kept looking around, wondering what was under the trapdoor. It had been unsealed, so there were two possibilities: One was that the beast under the ground had escaped, the other one was that I hadn't been the first one to come here. Besides the trapdoor, there really seemed to be nothing in this room. Korai talked to me.
"Where the fuck did you go?"
"I found a building at the center of the spikes and I had to see what was in it, where are you?"
"Alone, a storm is coming to us, where did you run to?"
"I didn't run anywhere, I'm in a building."
"Just… can you come back? I don't like being alone here at night, a storm is getting really close to us and my board refuses to fly me out of here."
"Alright, I'm coming."
I noticed the humming got stronger as I got outside, and there was a strong wind. I yelled before stepping outside. "Korai! Hey!"
"Where are you? I can hear you but I can't see you!"
"I'm in the… wait!"
I went outside and walked around the corner of the building until I found them, they had walked away from it in the time I was inside, somehow not noticing that I wasn't following them. They were standing in front of a quickly approaching brown fog, with bright, green lights flickering in it.
"Hey! I'm back here! Can you see me now?!"
"We need to find a place to hide! The wind can blow our husks away!" They began running toward me. The storm seemed to be moving faster.
"I know where we can hide!"
I was going to try and get us into the building. Once they were near me, they grabbed my arm and tried to pull me away from there, running away from the storm. I tried to stay in place, trying to pull them towards the building.
"What are you doing? We need to run!"
"We need to hide!"
A roaring noise came from the cloud of wind. A thunder.
"We don't have anywhere to hide!"
"We have this! Why can't you believe me?!"
"We're in danger, we need a real place to be in!"
I pulled their arm towards me, in an attempt to get them into the building. They tried to run away from me.
"What are you doing, you're putting both of us in danger!"
"I'm bringing both of us to safety, you shut up!"
In a mix of rage and self-preservation, I used their arm to throw them into the floor of the building, mustering a strength I didn't know I had. I stood before them, seeing how I had thrown them through the air, lightheaded and uncertain of what I had done. They were panicking.
"I can't see…"
"I can't see anything! It's dark, what did you do?!"
I was standing in front of a hole in the wall, the wind and the fog had completely engulfed the building, and several of the lights, the 'lightnings,' were now striking behind me. The wind swung my tendrils and husk, almost threatening to blow them away, and the humming was stronger than ever. Korai slowly regained their sight, and once they saw me, they crawled away in panic, turning their back against me, putting their hands on their face, like grabbing and inspecting something from it.
I entered the building to protect myself from the storm, and sat against one of the walls.
For the longest time, nothing happened. I stared at them, wondering how they were feeling or what I could do if I had severely hurt them. The humming from outside was deafening, and it distracted me from my already numb thoughts. I felt distant, like the world around me was a dream. My tether flew back onto my forehead. I didn't know if I should say anything. I felt my chest, neck and wrists pulsating, and a bit of my blood was spilling out of my husk's teeth.
They put their hands near their eyes back again, and laid their back against a wall.
"Who are you, really?"
I couldn't respond. Partially because I didn't know the answer, but most of all, I knew whatever I said would not help.
"What are you?!"
I sighed, cleaning the blood from my neck with my hand. It was a thick, magenta fluid. I spread it on the floor to clean my hand, and noticed another magenta spot that was already there, where I had thrown Korai. I didn't know what to think about it. I didn't want to think about.
I looked around us. Some of the sand dragged by the storm managed to make it into the building, and I could feel the wind. Maybe this wasn't as good a hiding place as I thought it would be. Korai sighed, before talking.
"I fucking knew you were something else. What do you want from me?"
"I don't want anything."
"Then why?! Why drag me out here?!"
"You're the one who dragged me out here!"
"You're the one who's pretending to be someone else! Or something else?! I have no Idea anymore!"
"What does that even mean?! I'm sorry about throwing you in here like that! I didn't know I was that strong! I won't—"
"You didn't know?! Didn't know?!" They got up, I could see the hurt spots in heir legs and arms had been covered with some light magenta tissue. "Come on, what's with the seeing forbidden places then?!"
"I didn't know there were forbidden places! I don't know anything, Korai! What are you trying to say?!"
"You're not like me, you tricked me into coming here and you're going to return me to them!"
"Who's them?! I don't understand."
"You're a superior! You're not fooling anyone anymore!"
It felt like a revelation of sorts. I didn't know if they were right, but it would explain why I could see this place and they couldn't. It would also explain the strength I just had. But other than that, it didn't make sense. I didn't know what to say. Korai stood there, panting, extremely alarmed.
"I thought you were like me, I thought I could trust someone, I— "
"Even if I was one, why would I have forgotten everything? Why would there be people looking to get rid of me?! Maybe I was one before, but I'm clearly not—"
They walked toward, to land a kick in my face, "SHUT UP!"
I remained on the floor. I didn't want to fight back, in fear of doing irreversible damage. I didn't want to hurt them more.
"I don't even know what superiors are…"
"How is that even possible?!"
"I was born two days ago, Korai. I don't know anything."
They sighed, then walked back to lay against the same wall as before. The wind howled stronger, for what were the slowest minutes of my life. We stared at the walls and the ceiling, trying to not look directly at each other. I put my hand on the side of my face they kicked, and noticed that it was warm.
"We should hide under there," they said, pointing at the trapdoor, "being here freaks me out. Feels like the wind can still blow our husks away."
"Yeah. I don't want you to be in a closed room with me, though. I know you don't want that."
"I kind of already am. It's not like anyone will find my corpse in here. Not much different from there."
Both of us refused to get up, until the wind that made it through the holes grew even stronger, then they got up and opened the trapdoor. There was a long ladder leading down, and it was dark. Korai's tether flew in, illuminating the place.
"I go first," they said, before entering.
"Tell me if you see something that makes you think I shouldn't be there with you. Or something. I don't know. I'm fine with being here if it makes you feel better."
"It changes nothing."
After a short time, they stopped and looked at me before continuing their way down. "But thanks."